Skip to main content

See also:

Michael Pollan reveals why you may never eat another McDonald's French fry again

In a recent video extolling the benefits of cooking at home versus consuming restaurant-prepared food from corporations, food author and activist Michael Pollan reveals how fast-food giant McDonald’s makes its popular French fries.

Author Michael Pollan explains how the potatoes used for McDonald's fries are harvested.
Author Michael Pollan explains how the potatoes used for McDonald's fries are harvested.
McDonald's Instagram

And the process may be scary to some.

Pollan explains that McDonald’s uses only one type of potato to make its fries: the Russet Burbank. The Russet Burbank is coveted by McDonald’s because of its long shape, prime for cutting into long, skinny fries.

But, according to Pollan, McDonald’s won’t purchase the Russet Burbank potatoes from farmers if they contain net necrosis, a brown discoloration that blemishes the potato after infection from the potato leaf virus.

To eliminate blemishes and aphids, farmers use a pesticide called Monitor on the potatoes —the same potatoes that will later become fries-- that is so toxic, according to Pollan, “farmers won’t venture outside into their fields for five days after they spray”.

Pollan goes onto to describe that once the potatoes are harvested, the potatoes have to rest to “off-gas” in football stadium-sized, atmosphere-controlled sheds for six weeks because they aren’t edible.

He further decries a population’s reliance on corporations, like fast-food companies, as a source for food, arguing that cooking food at home is the integral key to a healthy diet.

Corporations, Pollan argues, cook very differently from the way people at home do; they use vast amounts of salt, fat, and sugar which are more attractive to consumers and because they are cheaper to use.

He claims that on average, families spend 27 minutes on a night cooking in the kitchen, a figure that has slowly dwindled over the decades as families spend less time cooking at home and more time consuming processed and fast-foods.

Pollan postulates that the idea of cooking has been bastardized in America, viewed as a form of drudgery, a laborious activity saved only for those with time and elite skill. He also speculates that as more cooking television shows fetishize celebrity chefs and restaurant cooking, the potential home cook is being scared away and being further brainwashed by marketers eager to capitalize on selling convenient, processed products.

So, what’s the ultimate takeaway from Pollan’s talk?

He emphasizes that cooking at home, while time and labor-intensive, is ultimately the key to lowering obesity and diabetes rates and improving the overall health of our population.

You can view Michael Pollan’s complete talk in the video (skip to 2:41 to hear the part about McDonald’s French fries).